Thursday, July 19, 2018

Language of Confusion: -Cise, Part II

More of this! Please let this be the last week!

We don’t use incise much these days, although incisor and incision are still popular. Incision actually predates incise by two hundred years, as incise showed up in the mid sixteenth century—incisor on the other hand showed up in the seventeenth century. Incise and incisor come from the French inciser, which is from the Old French enciser and incision is from the Old French incision. All are from classical Latin, from incisus (cut) and incisionem, respectively, and both those words come from the verb incidere, to cut. The in- means into here and -cidere, as we discussed last week, comes from the Latin caedere, to cut or hack. Yeah, I’d prefer a doctor making a “cut” into me rather than a “hack”.

One of my least favorite activities, exercise showed up in the mid fourteenth century from the Old French exercice and classical Latin exercitium, the noun form of exercise. Its verb form is exercere, to exercise obviously, which is a mix of the prefix ex-, off, and arcere, to keep away, prevent, or coerce, and is from the Proto Indo European ark-, hold, contain, or guard, the origin word for arcane. So exercise isn’t related to the other -cise words. But more importantly it’s related to a word for coerce and I think that’s just extremely apt.

This should be a fun one. Maybe more appropriate for Halloween? Exorcise first showed up in the fifteenth century from the Old French exorciser and Late Latin exorcizare. That word was actually take from Greek, where the word is exorkizein, which meant banish evil spirits… or, you know, exorcise. So this one isn’t related to the -cise words either? And it use to be spelled “exorcize”, but may have changed to an S because of the influence of exercise. No, I can’t believe it either.



  1. So, exorcise is a misspelling that got codified by enough mistakes? Weirder things have happened.

  2. Exorcise sounds just convoluted enough to need its own exorcism.

  3. I got nothing today...
    I think my brain has been exorcised.

  4. I kind of like that the word exercise and the word coerce are related. Makes sense...


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